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San Jose

This high-tech hub delivers surprising diversity with innovative museums, rich history, and a cosmopolitan culinary scene

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Arrive by plane and San Jose’s unmistakable techy-ness starts right off the bat. At ultra-modern Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport, you’ll come face-to-face with Space Observer, a 28-foot/7.9-meter-high white-and-chrome robot that waves its propeller-tipped wings while its cameras track your movements through the airport mezzanine.

Even if you arrive by car, you’ll find myriad ways to experience the rebirth of California’s third-largest city as a cutting-edge urban hub. Downtown is packed with worthwhile stops, like the ultra-hands-on museum The Tech Interactive, where exhibits focus on innovations in computers, robotics, healthcare, and even space exploration. At the light and airy San Jose Museum of Art, the spotlight is on contemporary and modern art. Architecture and sports fans will appreciate the glassy modern palace of the SAP Center, home to the San Jose Sharks NHL franchise.

Among all the shiny newness, you’ll also find pride in the city’s history. On Saturdays, take a guided tour of San Jose’s oldest structure, the 1797 Peralta Adobe, a relic from California’s Spanish and Mexican periods.Learn about San Jose’s life before silicon chips at the expansive campus of History Park San Jose, an extraordinary indoor/outdoor museum at Kelley Park. Nearly three dozen preserved or reconstructed buildings—including a Chinese temple, a trolley restoration barn, an 1881 electric light tower, and the Pacific Hotel with its famed ice cream parlor—recreate early life in the Santa Clara Valley.

San Jose’s vibrant dining scene offers a kaleidoscope of authentic global flavors, including Ethiopian fare at Zeni Restaurant, homemade taramosalata at Nemea Greek Taverna, and a mélange of modern French and Vietnamese cuisine at Élyse. In 2018, Adega became the first San Jose restaurant to receive a Michelin star—one of only two Portuguese dining spots in the country to ever receive that honor. Three different prix fixe menus (splurge for the seven-course tasting menu) are offered daily at the family-owned establishment.

Downtown San Jose’s lively, open-late food hall, San Pedro Square Market, is a great place for hanging out or grabbing takeout meals, like a bowl of Nepali steamed dumplings from Urban Momo. Check out Treatbot, the ice cream trike from the future, serving up karaoke and local ice cream flavors like the “408” (vanilla ice cream, caramel, and Oreos). No sense goes un-served in the public market’s three halls: Keep your nose peeled for the aroma of roasted coffee beans and wood-fired pizza while enjoying live entertainment and local artwork.

Alongside its outstanding eats, San Jose’s craft brew scene has made a name for itself. Following the Silicon Valley creed of “iterate, iterate, iterate,” Hermitage Brewing brews three or four beers almost every single day. Strike Brewing Company marries a sports-bar feel (pretzels and ping pong) with upscale Belgian-style beers. And at local favorite Good Karma Artisan Ales & Café, you can sip carefully crafted lagers alongside some of the best vegan food in the South Bay.

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